The Art of Catching a Wave

October 27, 2016

Credit: -Daniel Hasulyo@Waterman League

Credit: -Daniel Hasulyo@Waterman League 2016

            There are many reasons that people start Stand-Up Paddle Boarding: they are sick of small surf days, they think it looks like an excellent way of enjoying spots with flat water or they were looking for a new way to stay in shape and have fun at the same time. Whatever the reason for starting out, once you get the basics down (and watch a few amazing surfing SUP videos on Youtube), then it is guaranteed that you will want to get out in the surf yourself.

            While a triple-overhead session experienced by the watermen in Hawaii may still be a little out of your league, SUPing is one of the simplest methods of enjoying surfing, as long as you are up and competently paddling.

Credit: Geogria Schofield Photography - Daniel Hasulyo@Waterman League 2016

Credit: Geogria Schofield Photography – Daniel Hasulyo@Waterman League 2016

SUP Basics and Techniques of Catching Waves

            ◊ Choose the Best Day

            SUP works best with waves that are moving slowly. Waves that are breaking quickly or barreling in shallow water are better for surfers using smaller boards. Ideally for your first few sessions you are looking for waves that are from the height of your knees to your shoulders, and that break slowly. High winds, particularly a wind that is blowing onshore, will decrease the quality of the waves and make it more difficult for you to spot ideal ones.

            ◊ Choose the Best Spot

            On calmer days it is pretty simple to paddle to the out back where the waves are unbroken and get yourself positioned where they are breaking. Be sure to avoid areas with groups of surfers who are sitting on an obvious “peak” while you are still a beginner. There are codes of conduct among the people catching waves that are strictly followed. Until you are competent and confident, do your best to keep clear of where other surfers are catching waves.

            ◊ The Paddle Out

            Before you can start surfing, you need to get to the out back. Getting through the breaking waves is often very challenging, particularly when you are used to flat water. When there are a number of breaking waves to cross before you reach the out back, then the best method is to wade out until the water is chest deep, and then paddle with your arms while you are lying down on your board. You can lay the paddle on the board, where it will be held down by your chest while you paddle. When you near a broken wave, lift your body upward with your arms, while holding the paddle down with one hand, and let the board crest the wave, leaving some of the wave to pass between the board and your body.

            ◊ The Outback

            Learning to find the outback is just one of those things that will come naturally as you gain experience. You need to be past where the waves are breaking, and right outside where the “set waves” are breaking, which are the wave groups that come in every few minutes. When you first get to the outback, it is better to be too far and have to work your way back in once you get a feel for exactly where the breaking sets are. Now all you need to do is face the shore and keep your eyes toward the horizon, and on the lookout for waves.

            ◊ Choosing Waves

            Once you see an approaching set, you need to decide on the exact wave that you are going to catch. A set can have up to 3 waves, so you do not need to always pick the first one. The goal is to catch a wave before it breaks, but not so early that it picks you up. Therefore, choose a wave, and then paddle away from or toward the peak to set yourself up in the correct position.

            ◊ Catching Waves

            Begin to paddle in the neutral position, where both feet are facing forward. Firmly paddle toward the beach. The goal is to create enough speed so that your own speed is matching the wave’s when it arrives.

            ◊ Caught Waves

            Once you have caught a wave, you will know it for sure. It will feel strange compared to using the paddle to move on your board. There exists a noticeable moment when the board begins to be powered by the wave, and you will learn to be able to anticipate this moment with experience. The key thing to remember at this moment is to alter your stance. Everyone is either naturally “regular” (left foot forward) or “goofy” (right foot forward. Just do what feels natural to you.

           And now you are surfing!!!

»»»» Some Common Problems  ««

            Cannot Get Outback

            This can happen for numerous reasons. If the surf is creating a lot of sets, then just wait patiently for a gap to open, and go as hard as you can. It can also be useful to scout the surf from the beach before you go in to identify flatter areas to aim for. Some days the surf just might be too big, which means simply waiting for a smaller day.

            Cannot Get On a Wave

            This can happen for two reasons, either speed or position. You need to already be paddling hard before a wave gets to you and you need to be aiming for the waves that are just starting to break. If you find that the waves are simply passing under your board, then you are either too far from the peak or too far out.

            Thrown Off the Board By Waves

            This happens when you go for waves too late. While surfers are able to catch waves late with their shorter boards, you need to be catching them before they begin to break. If left too late, then the wave catches the board and throws you off.

Catching waves with SUPs takes a couple of sessions to get used to, and then a lifetime of practice to truly become a master. However, riding waves is one of the greatest experiences that you can have using your SUP, so get yourself out there, experience a few wipeouts and start riding waves.



WeSUP is born by the group of Thai SUP enthusiasts, who are deeply enthralled by stand-up paddling or SUP. Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) is the fastest growing sport across the world. We want to push on it and aim to be the leading SUP Sport guide in Thailand.

Not only SUP is fun and perfect for your entire family, but SUP also has huge benefit for you. SUP opens up a whole new world of exploration, fitness and adrenaline. It's a great way to get fit, developing core strength, cardio fitness, flexibility, balance and allows you to choose your own path to better health. Unlike surfing, you don't need waves to paddleboard, you can go paddling on any open water, an ocean, lake, and even a river. If you never try SUP, Let's start!